“A program intended to help police officers identify where a shooting happens, get there quicker and ultimately cut down on crime has been stripped from the proposed city budget because city leaders said it’s not effective, San Antonio, Texas’ ksat.com reports. “It cost the city $270,000 to put ShotSpotters on the city’s crime-ridden east and west sides, but police Chief William McManus said the program’s results don’t match up with its hefty price tag.”
The experience in San Antonio shows the ShotSpotter system’s limitations. In the fifteen months the system was in place, the police credited four arrests to ShotSpotter. That’s arrests, not convictions. The total cost of the system was $378,000 plus $168,000 for officer overtime associated with the program. So the city spent about $136,000 per each arrest.
The four suspects were arrested on charges of discharging a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor, the SAPD’s Sgt. Jesse Salame said. One of the suspects also was charged with possession of narcotics.
There was no known shooting victim in any of those four cases, Salame said.
It’s easy to see why Police Chief McManus pulled the plug. While some costs would be spread out over years, the overtime and maintenance costs of the system could conservatively be $75,000 a year per arrest.That would be most of the cost of a full time police officer, to make one misdemeanor arrest where no shooting victim was involved.
In Connecticut, ShotSpotter system is also under the gun. From fox61.com in 2013:
“It gives us a very, very close location as to where the shots emanated from,” said Lt. Brian Foley of the Hartford Police Department.
But that’s only when it’s working and the problem is that so far, ShotSpotter has mostly backfired. During an analysis of ShotSpotter in spring 2012, police records show that out of 60 total alerts, only six were confirmed, meaning the system was only 10 percent accurate. Nearly a year later, an interdepartmental police memo shows the system’s accuracy on 27 alerts was even lower, at just eight percent. Two of those 27 alerts were labeled as gunfire but really weren’t, including one which was just noise from a snow plow.
“Some calls you go to you don’t know if it’s a firecracker, you don’t know if it’s a gunshot, you don’t know if it’s a dump truck swinging its tailgate,” Foley said.
The New Haven Police Department purchased ShotSpotter for $374,000 in 2009 and has made two payments of $49,000 for maintenance since then, yet police admit the system has been flawed.
“It was definitely frustrating to officers and dispatch, it was taking up a lot of our resources,” said Sgt. Max Joyner.
Technological solutions to crime can be helpful, especially for politicians who want to be seen to be “doing something” about “gun violence.” But there are always criminal countermeasures. Bad guys wear gloves to stop leaving fingerprints, or masks to foil surveillance cameras. Sensors can be destroyed, etc.
While ShotSpotter can be helpful in locating crime hot spots, those locations are already well-known to the police. Truth be told, violent criminals are small in number in all communities. Spend the resources on monitoring, apprehending and convicting those known individuals, and violent crime will decrease.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.